Thursday, September 01, 2016

Chicanonautica: Notes from the Crossroads

Things are going fairly well for me. I have books and stories coming out. I have actually had a career, and it’s still going on. My work in being taught in classes, and is the subject of academic study. I could quit it all tomorrow and feel that I’ve done something with my life. Not bad for guy born in East L.A. back in the Atomic Age.
The problem is,I can’t stop. Everything I experience gets reprocessed into stories. Must be those kinks in my brain that keep me from being conventional. A lobotomy probably wouldn’t do any good.

So I live surrounded by all these stories, novels, whatever, clamoring for me to finish or even just start them. Right now I'm in the middle of several that could be novels; then I get another idea, and another one for a sequel to one that I published over twenty years ago.

The problem is I've had enough success, been published often enough, I’ve developed the delusion I’m some kind of professional. Why not? I've been paid for my work, dammit! 
The money I’ve received for writing has never been enough to live on, and with the exception of two of my novels, I can’t crack Big Time New York Publishing -- they treat me like a very talented leper. You’d think I was on a blacklist or something. Or maybe it’s that my Chicano sensibilities don’t jibe with their East Coast Literary worldview. But I still expect a little moolah for getting published.

I occasionally do things for – Harlan Ellison forgive me! –free, especially if it means I can get away with the sort of batshit craziness that I find so amusing. Getting paid is better than not getting paid, but also getting published is better than not getting published. And trying to be a “professional” who insisted on money once had me out of the action so long that people thought I was dead.

People need to read you; otherwise it's all just masturbating with words.

Maybe I should write the one that’s most likely to sell.

The big, fat, hairy problem with that is I don’t have any idea what makes something salable. Really. When I write something, I think it's going be the greatest thing of all time and take the world by storm. I’m always shocked when this doesn’t happen.

I’ve never been a fan of bestsellers. Ever wonder who decides what becomes a bestseller? When I worked at Borders we put stuff on the bestseller rack because publishers paid the company to. The “bestseller” is just as much a genre as romance, mystery, or sci-fi, full of bestseller characters I can’t relate too. Maybe it’s my exotic Chicano sensibility. 

Right now, I'm on vacation, out of my usual environment to rest and recuperate. And lapping up the ambient weirdness. Who knows, maybe I'll come up with some more ideas.

Ernest Hogan, author of the cult novel High Aztech, wonders if he should work on his novels about a Martian mariachi, the future of bullfighting, Wild West brujos, or his crazed alter ego.

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